Starbucks Is Not Just a Coffee Shop

You think the Seattle-based coffee chain is just a place to plant yourself, open your MacBook Air, and drink some overpriced Charbucks Latte?


Starbucks is not just another outpost in Laptopistan.

Starbucks is . . . a lifestyle brand.

A . . . culture broker.

Starbucks wants to be a player in the art world (see the ill-fated Starbucks Salon). In the film industry (Akeelah and the Bee, anyone?). In music with the Opus Collection (which one critic pointed out is actually the Collection Collection). In politics with Starbucks founder Howard Schultz’s goo-goo ads.

And in the book business.

From Tuesday’s New York Times (and Wall Street Journal):


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Nut graf:


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Everyone – Facebook, Google, you name it – wants to own popular culture.

Starbucks is getting its share.

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First White House Transgender Hire Is From Brookline

The nation’s much-heralded transgender moment has finally ascended to America’s Big House.

From the Washington Blaze:

In first, White House hires openly trans staffer


The White House for the first time has hired an openly transgender person as a member of its staff, LGBT advocates and the Obama administration announced Tuesday. Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who formerly served in trans advocacy as policy adviser for the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Racial & Economic Justice Initiative, has been appointed to a senior position in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. She’s set to begin her new role as an outreach and recruitment director in the Presidential Personnel Office on Tuesday.

But here’s the best part, via the Daily Beast: “Freedman-Gurspan was adopted from Honduras and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts.”

Can we get an Amen?

Okay, how about a mazel tov.

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Wait, What? They Like Ike Memorial?

As the hardworking staff noted last fall, The Weekly Standard’s senior editor Andrew Ferguson has been on the Eisenhower Memorial debacle like Brown on Williamson.

Then there’s Frank Gehry, the starchitect who designed MIT’s Stata Center among other landmark buildings. His Looney-Tunes design just got green lighted for the Eisenhower Memorial, a historic fiasco chronicled for the ages by the redoubtable Andrew Ferguson in the Weekly Standard last month.

Now comes the latest chapter in the Five-Star Folly. From Ferguson’s editorial in the current edition of The Weekly Standard:

Dole, Gehry, and Ike


Like Lazarus, or maybe Frankenstein’s monster, the appalling plan for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C., appears to be sputtering to life once more. Only two months ago it seemed safely kaput.

The design by “starchitect” Frank Gehry aims for a deconstructionist fantasy that scatters its elements (massive stone blocks, a few statues, a vast metallic screen hoisted between 80-foot posts) across a chaotic city block just off the National Mall. It’s a sly insult to Dwight Eisenhower and the homespun virtues he typifies in the American imagination. And coming from the famously antibourgeois Gehry, it is very likely a pitiless joke—completely missed by its targets—on the aesthetic judgment of the bureaucrats and bumpkins responsible for preserving the integrity of the city’s memorials.

Yes, $60 million later, it was dead in the water – until, as Ferguson notes, “Bob Dole showed up.”

A Kansan like Ike, a genuine hero of the war effort that Eisenhower led, Dole has joined the commission’s new chairman, Kansas senator Pat Roberts, to lobby on behalf of the memorial . . .

Publicly Dole has expressed no opinion of Gehry’s design. He seems indifferent to it; what gets built is less important to him than when it gets built, and the sooner the better.

Because World War II veterans would “like to be around for the dedication,” Dole says.

We’ve always admired Bob Dole as a man (except when he mortgaged part of his soul during the 1996 presidential campaign), but his push for the Eisenhower Memorial feels totally compromised.

Then again, it seems to be effective: The Eisenhower Commission is pushing Congress to allocate another $60 million to begin construction.

One more riff from Ferguson:

Though the point is seldom explicitly made, the legacy of the greatest generation is decidedly mixed. It certainly got the big things right—saving the world from unspeakable tyranny, for example. In matters of architecture, design, and public planning, however, the greatest generation was a disaster, and for this reason: It lacked the confidence to question the say-so of frauds and cynics and ideologues who called themselves experts—whether in scholarship, social sciences, architecture, or art.

Our take:

This whole enterprise is a shonda, and the Gehry design defiles the memory of Dwight Eisenhower and the many good people who died for this country.

Someone should put an end to it.

Paging Donald Trump . . . paging Mr. Donald Trump . . . 

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Ickiest Quote o’ the . . . Ever (Donald Trump Edition)

From our Quote o’ the Day desk

Yesterday, Politico (who else? well, maybe BuzzFeed) ran this exhaustive/exhausting listicle.

The 199 Most Donald Trump Things Donald Trump Has Ever Said

Would you vote for this man?


1. “… don’t let the brevity of these passages prevent you from savoring the profundity of the advice you are about to receive.” (How to Get Rich, 2004)
2. “I am a really smart guy.” (TIME, April 14, 2011)
3. “I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.” (Fortune, April 3, 2000)
4. “I know what sells and I know what people want.” (Playboy, March 1990)
5. “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.” (Albany’s Talk 1300, April 14, 2011)

But it was this one that really gave us the creeps.

32. “… she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” (ABC’s “The View,” March 6, 2006)

That’s messed up, yo.

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The Arts Seen in Western Mass. (Summer of Whistler Edition)

Well the Missus and I trundled out to the Berkshires for a couple of days last week to catch this & that and, say, it was . . . swelling with people.

Upon our arrival in Williamstown we headed right to the Clark Museum to see Whistler’s Mother: Grey, Black, and White (through September 27). But we couldn’t find a parking spot within half a mile of the joint.

“Hey – everyone wants to see Whistler’s mother,” I said to the Missus.

So we hied ourselves instead to to the Williams College Museum of Art, and good for us, since we happily spent the entire day there amid a fabulous array of exhibitions.

Not to mention the dottiest group of people per square foot this side of Donald Trump Campaign Headquarters.

There was, for instance, the old gal who hung her cane on a 17th century side chair in the Three Centuries of American Art exhibit (through October 4).

And then there was the guy who draped himself all over George Segal’s Open Doorway for a selfie, even though there was a sign that said “Don’t cross this line to get a selfie with the sculpture.”


We spent most of our time at three other exhibits.

First, Whistler Close-Up (through October 18).


Study James McNeil Whistler’s gossamer brushwork and delicate use of line, with which he created some of the most beautiful—and most controversial­­—artwork of the nineteenth century. Featuring a group of exquisite small paintings on loan from the Terra Foundation for American Art along with prints from WCMA’s collection, some in multiple states, the installation lends itself to the exploration of Whistler’s artistic process and creative choices.

The museum provided magnifying glasses (especially helpful in examining Whistler’s etchings/drypoints) to facilitate our study.

Then it was on to The Loosening of Time: Maurice and Charles Prendergast (through August 30), a wonderful exhibit described this way:

The work of Maurice and Charles Prendergast oscillated in and out of its own time. The Prendergasts combined their knowledge of historic and modern art with observations of contemporary life to develop hybrid approaches to making art. This exhibition explores how a flexible concept of time figured across their artistic practices through subject matter, materials, and technique.


The Loosening of Time includes paintings, works on paper, decorative objects and ephemera drawn from WCMA’s extensive Prendergast holdings—the largest collection in the world.

It’s terrific – especially in chronicling the work of overshadowed brother Charles, an accomplished painter and woodcarver.

Finally, we meandered into Warhol by the Book (through August 16), which features a staggering collection of Andy Warhol’s book-related creations.

“The implicit message of ‘Warhol By the Book’—a show at once weightless and massive, opaque and revelatory–is to affirm what a literary sensibility its subject had.”—Boston Globe

Andy Warhol lived and breathed books. From his student days in the 1940s to his death in 1987, Warhol experimented wildly with form and content, turning traditional notions of media and authorship on their heads. He co-produced a satirical cookbook mocking fashionable French recipes; held coloring parties for crowdsourcing his own promotional books; and designed a pop-up “children’s book for hipsters” featuring sound recordings, holograms, and a do-it-yourself nose job.

Representative samples:




(Lots of details in Mark Feeney’s fine Boston Globe  review.)

The icing on the birthday cake (Warhol would have been 87 the day we were there):


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It was an interesting conversation between Brown and Price, ranging from Brown’s breakthrough 1971 exhibit of Warhol’s early work (before the Brillo boxes and Campbell’s soup cans) to Brown’s publishing of Patti Smith’s first collection of poetry (and Robert Mapplethorpe’s first Polaroid pictures).

Afterward, as promised, there was cake and ice cream and champagne. I believe Andy would have approved.

That night we went to the Williamstown Theatre Festival (where the Missus and I actually brought the average age down) to see Unknown Soldier, a new musical by Michael Friedman (who wrote the music and lyrics to Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and Daniel Goldstein.

In this haunting new musical created by writer Daniel Goldstein, Obie Award-winning composer Michael Friedman, and director Trip Cullman, Ellen Rabinowitz sets out to understand her past after she discovers an enigmatic photograph while cleaning out her deceased grandmother’s home. As she chases the truth about the soldier featured in the photo, Ellen is drawn into a tangle of historical facts and mysteries that lead her to surprising love stories and unexpected truths. Bringing together three WTF alumni, Unknown Soldier delves into memory and family mythology, asking how – or even whether – the past shows us who we are.

It was a sharp production with a splendid cast, but sadly, now it’s gone

* * * * * * *

Bright and early the next morning we were back at the Clark to see Whistler’s Mother, and I’m happy to report the old girl looks great. (We’d seen her a couple of times at the Musée d’Orsay, but this was special.)

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Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Portrait of the Artist’s Mother) (1871) by James McNeill Whistler is one of the most renowned works of art by an American artist. It is considered by many to be the most important American painting not on American soil. Better known as Whistler’s Mother, the painting has been owned by the French state since 1891 and is in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. This summer the Clark Art Institute presents the painting as the centerpiece of an exhibition featuring a variety of Whistler’s prints and drawings, Japanese woodblock prints that inspired the artist, and ephemera that explore the image’s role in popular culture. The Clark is one of only two American venues featuring the painting this year, and is the only east coast museum to show the iconic painting.

As opposed to the monumental Depression-era tour the painting took across America in 1933.

That completed our Summer Whistler Trifecta – Williams College Museum of Art, Clark Museum, and the great Whistler in Paris, London, and Venice exhibit we saw at the Yale University Art Gallery last month.

Remarkably, we had the Whistler exhibit pretty much to ourselves, but that changed when we meandered back to the Clark’s main galleries. Turns out the mile-long crowd wasn’t here to see Old Lady Whistler; they were here to see Van Gogh.

Specifically Van Gogh and Nature (through September 13).

Foolish us.

Then again, even the usually art-smart Wall Street Journal is all Van Gogh-Go.

From the WSJ piece Five Summertime Art Road Trips.

The Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, Mass.)

The museum, which last year unveiled a new exhibition center and revamped its 140 acres of lawns and meadows in the Berkshires, is exhibiting “Van Gogh and Nature,” 49 paintings and drawings by the artist exploring his fascination with all things bucolic and wild. Works include “Olive Trees,” a landscape van Gogh painted while in an asylum in 1889, and “Green Wheat Fields, Auvers,” completed months before his death in 1890. The show is set to break special-exhibit attendance records at the Clark, which calls this the first museum show to focus exclusively on van Gogh’s connection to nature.

Not a word about Anna Whistler. For shame.

On our way home we swung by the Norman Rockwell Museum where we caught a lively, funny tour of the permanent collection and then immersed ourselves in Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs (through October 26).

It’s a hoot.

Representative sample:




Nice way to end a road trip.

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When Hillary Met Snapchat . . .

The 2016 presidential hopefuls are on mobile platforms like Brown on Williamson. Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, WhatsApp – WhatsEver.

But it’s not always pretty. Case in point: Hillary Clinton’s baptism by Snapchat this week.

The call:


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The response:


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And there’s lots more where that came from.

The moral of the story?

Damned if we know. But it’s probably not good.

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When a Nation Forgets Its Own Clichés (‘Hanker Down’ Edition)

From our neverending Language Police blotter

As always, the hardworking staff is on the differently clichéd beat like Brown on Williamson. And the past several months have provided a myriad of mangled phrases.

Call the roll:

• Back in November, David Mark, co-author of Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs & Washington Handshakes with Chuck McCutcheon, did an NPR interview in which he said this:

“San Francisco values” is a code hand for extreme liberal views supposedly prevalent in the Northern California City.

Not to get technical about it, but “San Francisco values” is either shorthand for extreme liberal views or a code word for them. Pick one.

• In a January Boston Herald piece about new Massachusetts Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s transition team’s including a lawyer who was part of a sweetheart Boston Red Sox real estate deal that led to a state Inspector General investigation, one local chinstroker said:

Someone new to office like her, you want everyone to think you are as clean as the driven snow . . .

Actually, you want to be pure as the driven snow, or clean as a whistle. Pick one.

• In March, NBC News noted that during GOP presidential campaigning in New Hampshire, “[Wisconsin governor] Scott Walker mostly bunkered down in private meetings.” Hunkered down, maybe.

(An NPR piece around the same time has a pie maker saying on Pi Day that after taking care of her customers, “I’m going to hanker down with some pie.” See above.)

• An April Boston Herald piece about a Boston 2024 ballot question had one proponent saying, “Voters are smart and they can tell when someone is trying to pull something over on them.”

Except . . . you put something over on someone, or pull something off. Right?

• In June on NPR’s All Things Considered, a correspondent noted about a leak of Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change that “the leaker probably wants to blow the wind out of the Pope’s sails.”

Yeah, but . . . you take the wind out of someone’s sails, or – more vehemently – blow them out of the water. Probably the former, yeah?

• Also in June on an NPR show, an international-affairs thumbsucker called Ayatollah Khamenei’s bluster over the Iran nuclear deal “par for the game.” Of course, in a cliché-impaired culture, that’s par for the course.

• MSNBC reported in June that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal “argued his record – stopping the migration out of the Bayou State after Hurricane Katrina, slashing the number of state employees and upgrading the state’s credit rating – stands for itself.”

Well, maybe it speaks for itself. Or stands on its own. You decide.

• And, finally, this headline ran last month on the website Monday Note:

Why Nikkei Paid Top Money For The FT

Actually, Nikkei either paid top dollar for the Financial Times, or paid big money.

Not to get technical about it.

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DeVito/Verdict on Bernie & Phyl’s New York Advertising Agency: Dumb as a Mattress of Rocks

Bernie & Phyl’s, which for a long time ran the most cringeworthy television spots in the history of New England advertising, now has a hotshot New York ad agency – DeVito/Verdi – and a smart, funny TV campaign that features old-time videoclips with funky new narratives.

Representative sample:



But – as you might notice above –  DeVito/Verdi has labeled the campaign on YouTube Bernie & Phyl’s Furntiure, which yields virtually nothing and makes it a monumental effort to actually see the spots.

Hey, New York wiseguys:

Wise up, eh?

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Civilians Who Run Full-Page Ads in the New York Times (Howard Jonas Edition)

From our endless series

Funny how often these ads appear in the Saturday New York Times, which has the cheapest advertising rates for the week.

Regardless . . . from Saturday’s Grey Lady:


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Nuts to Obama graf:


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The ad is a testimonial from Samuel Marder, Transnistria Survivor and author of Devils Among Angels.

But the ad was “organized, produced, and paid for by Howard Jonas and The World Values Network.”

So who is Howard Jonas, you might reasonably ask.

Here is Howard Jonas.

And here is the World Values Network.

Draw your own conclusions.

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NYT Goes All RBF (Resting Bitch Face)

Leave it to the New York Times to say cow, see cow.

From Jessica Bennett’s Page One piece in the Sunday Styles Section:

Cursed With a Death Stare

The Internet meme known as RBF points to the perils of the serious female face at rest.

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I didn’t think much about it at the time: I was appearing in a short television segment and had quickly brushed my hair, then slapped on some concealer. I figured my glasses would cover the circles under my eyes.

Only later did I behold what I looked like — and it was terrifying. It wasn’t that I was disheveled; it was the actual face that looked back at me in the frozen screen shot.

My mouth curled slightly downward, my brows were furrowed, my lips were a little pursed. My eyes aimed forward in a deadpan stare. I looked simultaneously bored, mad and skeptical. I was basically saying to the newscaster: Die.

In that moment, I joined the ranks of a tribe of women who suffer from the scourge known as “resting bitch face” or, increasingly, just RBF.

The RBF lineup above features, from left, Kristen Stewart, January Jones, and Victoria Beckham.

Fabulously, when you go to the story’s jump page, there’s this:


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That’s beautiful, isn’t it?

(Tip o’ the pixel to the Missus)

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